Ongoing deterioration of the riverine environments of the Murray-Darling Basin led the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council to introduce a Cap in 1995 to halt the growth in diversions of water for consumptive use. This initiative recognised the finite nature of water resources in the Basin and sought to introduce a balance between off-stream use of water and protection of the riverine environment.
But the cap is only one step, albeit a fundamental one, in restoring the Basin's rivers - it is a “stake in the ground”. Parties to the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative recognise the need to reverse decades of creeping decline if the Basin's rivers and riverine environments are to return to a more ecologically sustainable condition. In the last 12 months, Council and Commission have taken far-reaching decisions designed to restore the Basin's Rivers. Many of these decisions, even 10 years ago, would have been unimaginable. The Report Card will explain the need for a number of recent decisions that will impact on the future of the Basin's rivers. For example, Council's decision to establish an Environmental Manager function in the Office of the Commission was made in the context of the recently agreed Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) Policy, and supporting Sustainable Rivers Audit. The role of targets and accountabilities under the ICM Policy will also be discussed. The Report Card will also present a snapshot of the state of the Basin's rivers and the actions being taken at a range of scales and locations in response to identified problems. Because some of the key initiatives are still in development, this Report Card will set the scene by describing where our attention is being focused and why.